Environmental policy and law
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Environmental Policy and Law. Chapter 24. Role of Government. Free Enterprise. Government. Regulate business enterprises that result in harm Without strangling innovation Without allowing env’tal degradation and social injustice. Vs.

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Environmental policy and law

Environmental Policy and Law

Chapter 24

Role of government

Role of Government

Free Enterprise


Regulate business enterprises that result in harm

Without strangling innovation

Without allowing env’tal degradation and social injustice


  • Create change and innovations that lead to new technologies, products and opportunities for profit

  • Raises standard of living

  • Can have harmful impact on others and env’t

Role of government1

Role of Government

  • Determined by its policies – set of laws and regulations it enacts and enforces and programs it funds

  • Politics – process by which individuals and groups try to influence or control the policies and actions of governments

  • Policy Life Cycle

    • Recognition, formation, implementation, control  repeat

    • Adjustments made often until they’re thrown out or succeed

    • Control is the hardest stage

The policy life cycle

The Policy Life Cycle

Fig. 24-2, p. 639

Social change in democracies

Social Change in Democracies

  • Constitutional democracies designed to allow gradual change in order to ensure stability

  • Special interest groups pressure the government  lobbying

  • Government reacts to issues, not prevent them

  • Environmental issues often not dealt with well

    • Complex problemsMany interrelated

    • Require long-term solutionsElected terms are short-term

Certain principles can guide us in making environmental policy

Certain Principles Can Guide Us in Making Environmental Policy

  • The humility principle

  • The reversibility principle

  • The net energy principle

  • The precautionary principle

Certain principles can guide us in making environmental policy1

Certain Principles Can Guide Us in Making Environmental Policy

  • The preventive principle

  • The polluter-pays principle

  • The environmental justice principle

  • How will these principles be implemented?

Environmental policy in the us

Environmental Policy in the US

  • Lawmakers must first feel that the environmental issue should be addressed

    • Lobbying – individuals/groups try to persuade legislators to vote or act in their favor

      • Some lobbyists are very powerful

      • In 2009, spent $3.49 billion to influence Congress - $6.5 million per member!

      • Influence may overshadow input from citizens

  • Bills reviewed by several committees in House and Senate

  • After law is passed, Congress must appropriate funds

  • Politics often plays a larger role than science in developing policy

Individuals corporations environmental organizations u s government interact

Individuals, Corporations, Environmental Organizations, U.S. Government Interact

Fig. 24-3, p. 642

Science and politics

Science and Politics

  • Four principles of science

    • Any scientific claim must be based on hard evidence and be subject to peer review

    • Scientists can never establish absolute truth

    • Scientists vigorously debate the validity of scientific research

    • Science advances through open sharing and peer review of research methods, results, and conclusions

Science and politics1

Science and Politics

  • Politics

    • Politicians are most concerned with getting reelected

    • Disregard scientific evidence, or pick and choose facts to support a political position

    • Personal attacks versus discussion of facts

    • Spread of disinformation in media/online

Case study managing public lands in the united states politics in action

Case Study: Managing Public Lands in the United States—Politics in Action

  • 35% of the U.S., 3/4 in Alaska, 1/5 in West

  • Federal public land

    • U.S. Forest Service: National Forest System

    • Bureau of Land Management

    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife: National Wildlife Refuges

    • National Park System

    • National Wilderness Preservation System

    • Different restrictions for each

Natural capital national forest national parks national wildlife refuges u s

Natural Capital: National Forest, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, U.S.

Fig. 24-5, p. 645

Fossil fuel reserves in north america

Fossil Fuel Reserves in North America

Figure 18, Supplement 8

Case study managing public lands in the united states politics in action1

Case Study: Managing Public Lands in the United States—Politics in Action

  • Conservation biologists/environmental economists

    • Used primarily for protecting biodiversity, wildlife habitats, and ecosystems

    • No subsidies or tax breaks for extracting public resources

    • Fair compensation for American people for use and resource extraction

    • All users/extractors of public resources are fully responsible for environmental damages

Great ideas… but… the government has given an average of $1 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks to privately owned interests that use public lands for mining, fossil fuel extraction, logging, and grazing.

Case study managing public lands in the united states politics in action2

Case Study: Managing Public Lands in the United States—Politics in Action

  • Developers/resource extractors

    • Sell lands/resources at below-market value, or let state and local governments manage lands

    • Slash funding for management of public lands

    • Cut old-growth forests and replace them with tree farms

    • Open all public lands to oil drilling, mining, off-road vehicles, and commercial development

    • Build new privately-run concessions and theme parks in national parks

Between 2002-2009, the government expanded the extraction of mineral, timber, and fossil fuel resources on US public lands and weakened environmental laws and regulations protecting them.

Types of environmental laws

Types of Environmental Laws

  • Set standards for pollution levels

    • Clean Air Acts

  • Screen new substances for safety and set standards

    • Safe Drinking Water Act

  • Encourage resource conservation

    • Resource Conservation Act

  • Set aside/protect certain species, resources, or ecosystems

    • Endangered Species Act

  • Require evaluation of environmental impact of an activity proposed by a federal agency

    • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Nepa 1970

NEPA (1970)

  • Cornerstone Environmental Law

  • Requires Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for any proposed federal action

    • Ex: highway or dam construction

  • Revolutionized environmental protection in US

  • Requires an environmental impact statement (EIS) be

    • Describes why the project is needed

    • Identifies positive and negative environmental impacts

    • Suggests ways to decrease harm

    • Presents an evaluation of alternatives

  • Published and open to public comment

Effects of environmental legislation according to epa s draft report on the environment 2003

Effects of Environmental Legislation(According to EPA’s Draft Report on the Environment 2003)

  • Since 1970,

    • 6 air pollutants have dropped by 25%

  • Since 1990

    • wet sulfate levels decreased 20-30%

  • In 2002

    • 94% of US had healthy drinking water (up from 79% in 1993)

  • As of 2002

    • 846 of 1498 Superfund Sites are cleaned up

  • Fewer streams violate water standards

Environmental regulation

Environmental Regulation

  • Almost every environmental regulation is challenged in court by industry and/or environmental organization

  • Terms

    • Plaintiff –party bringing the charge

    • Defendant – party being charged

    • Civil suit – settle disputes between the two parties

      • Plaintiff seeks to collect damages for injuries to health or for economic losses or for injunction – an order to stop doing the harmful action

    • Class action suit

      • Filed by group on behalf of a larger number of citizens

Negligence open ditch containing acid runoff from a closed coal mine in west virginia

Negligence: Open Ditch Containing Acid Runoff from a Closed Coal Mine In West Virginia

Fig. 24-9, p. 648

Environmental regulation1

Environmental Regulation

  • Limitations in Lawsuits

    • Expensive

    • Time

      • Statute of limitations

      • Court decisions can be slow

    • Permission

      • Hard for plaintiff to show their losses as a direct results of alleged env’tal harm

    • Abuse of system

      • Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs)

Problems with environmental law

Problems with Environmental Law

  • Who opposes environmental laws?

    • Corporate leaders and other powerful figures who see them as threats to their profits, wealth, and power

    • Citizens who see them as threats to their private property and jobs

    • State and local gov’t officials who have to implement federal laws and regulations with little to no federal funding or who disagree with the regulations

  • Why the opposition?

    • Environmental problems aren’t as easy to see as they have been in the past

      • Smokestack vs. climate change

      • Filthy river vs. polluted groundwater

      • It’s hard to explain these problems to the public and get support for long-range solutions

Problems with environmental law1

Problems with Environmental Law

  • Why the opposition?

    • Focus has been on bad news about the environment

      • Bearers of bad news are not well received

      • Need a positive vision to gain followers

  • 80% support environmental laws and regulations but most don’t consider the environment to be one of the nation’s most pressing problems (2-10% do)

    • Don’t vote for or want to spend their money on environmental concerns

Influencing environmental policy

Influencing Environmental Policy

  • Bottom-up Solutions

    • Change comes from grassroots political movements

      • Individuals join together to bring about change

    • In the late 1960s, there was lots of pressure from citizens to address environmental degradation

      • Led to an environmental revolution

      • Both parties in Congress worked together with executive branch to pass and implement major environmental laws during the 70s (the Environmental Decade)

Influencing environmental policy1

Influencing Environmental Policy

  • Ways to influence policies

    • Vote

    • Contribute money to candidates

    • Lobby, write, e-mail elected officials

    • Educate and persuade

    • Expose fraud, waste, and illegal activities

  • Environmental leaders can make a big difference

    • Lead by example

    • Campaign and vote for informed and eco-friendly candidates

      Ex. Vote with your wallet

    • Run for local office

    • Propose and work for better solutions to environmental problems

  • Environmental groups

    Environmental Groups

    • Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)

      • Can be very small, grassroots groups, or huge, multi-million member organization

    • Mainstream Environmental Groups

      • Multi-million dollar organizations led by chief executive officers and a staff of experts

      • Active primarily on the national level

      • Work within political system (major forces in persuading Congress)

    Environmental groups1

    Environmental Groups

    • Grassroots Citizens’ Groups

      • Over 6000 exist in the US

      • Mostly active at the local level

      • Since the 70s, emerging worldwide global sustainability movement

    Environmental security

    Environmental Security

    • Lots of focus on national security and economic security

      • All economies supported by natural capital

    • Transitioning to more sustainable societies will require that nations cooperate just as they do for national security purposes

    We can develop stronger international environmental policies

    We Can Develop Stronger International Environmental Policies

    • Goals:

      • Help expand understanding of environmental issues

      • Gather and evaluate environmental data

      • Develop and monitor international environmental treaties

      • Provide grants and loans for sustainable development and reducing poverty

      • Help nations develop environmental laws

    • United Nations: most influential

      • Family of global policy-making organizations

        • UN Environmental Programme (UNEP)

        • World Health Organization (WHO)

        • UN Development Program (UNDP)

        • Food and Drug Organization (FAO)

    • Other influential groups

      • World Bank – large source of funding for economic development (e.g., dams, irrigation infrastructure)

      • European Union (EU) – 27 members; European Environment Agency

      • World Trade Organization (WTO) – represents multinational corporations and promotes free trade

    Global environmental policy

    Global Environmental Policy

    • 1972 UN Conference in Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden

      • Addressed environmental issues at the global level

      • Created UNEP to help develop global environmental agenda

    • 1992 Rio Earth Summit

      • Over 178 nations and 100s of NGOs met

      • Came up with Agenda 21, a global agenda for sustainable development in the 21st century

      • Adopted by 178 governments (not the US)

      • Established goals for addressing world’s social, economic, and environmental problems

    • Met again in 1997 and found little improvement because 1992 agreements not binding

    • Some international laws and conventions have had good results

      • Montreal and Copenhagen Protocols for protecting the ozone layer

    Environmental policy and law


    Global Efforts to Solve

    Environmental Problems

    Good News

    Bad News

    Most international environmental treaties lack criteria for evaluating their effectiveness

    Over 500 international environmental treaties and agreements

    UN Environment Programme negotiates and monitors environmental treaties

    1992 Rio Earth Summit led to nonbinding agreements, inadequate funding, and little improvement in major problems by 2010

    1992 Rio Earth Summit adopted principles for handling global environmental problems

    2002 Johannesburg Earth Summit failed to deal with climate change, biodiversity loss, and poverty

    2002 Johannesburg Earth Summit tried to implement 1992 Rio summit policies

    and goals

    2009 Copenhagen conference failed to deal with projected climate change

    Fig. 24-12, p. 656

    Environmental policy and law



    Environmental Treaties



    Take long time to develop and require full consensus

    Stop requiring full consensus among participating parties

    Improve procedures and funding for monitoring and enforcement

    Lack of funding and poor monitoring and enforcement

    Not integrated with one another

    Integrate existing agreements

    Fig. 24-13, p. 657

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